Kansui Ramen in San Jose [Goat Pastrami, Pumpernickel Noodles, Willow Glen]
Kansui Ramen opened at the beginning of the year. Positioned as a hip pop-up inside Haymarket, as the name implies, the housemade noodles are firm from alkali (kansui). At lunch time, the full beverage menu from Haymarket can be ordered, giving this the most extensive alcohol selection of any noodle joint. The ramen menu includes choice of regular stocks and a few daily specials, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. My mother and I tried it last month.
Mom ordered the shio ramen, $10. While this bowl will not win any awards for presentation, the full-bodied stock was deeply meaty and boldly flavored. A chat with the owner later revealed that all the ingredients in the bowl are swirled together to distribute the flavors evenly thus the hit-by-a-cyclone appearance. Rather than layers of flavor unpeeling as one slurps along the way to the bottom of the bowl with the final fully infused sip of stock being the most intense, the entire impact kicked through from the first mouthful. Tasting mostly of pork, a bit of katsuoboshi and a delicate salinity, the stock had the silky roundness contributed by chicken feet but not that much chicken flavor.
Braised chashu fell apart into big succulent and tender chunks and was a touch sweet. Other standard toppings included scallions, a soft-yolked seasoned egg, nori, shitake, and kombu. The thick ropey noodles were all that and supplied in an outsized serving. No need to order refills here. Firm and chewy starting out, they did soften up somewhat on standing as the ramen’s served steaming hot.
For me, Reuben ramen, $12. This bowl has the standard toppings, including chashu, plus house-cured goat pastrami. The sauerkraut promised on the menu was missing. The fatty stock’s seasoned with mustard seeds, caraway and other pastrami pickling spices. I was more than skeptical, but shockingly, it actually works. The owner was pleased to hear that I liked this combination, as some of their early experiments had bombed and should never be repeated.
I loved the dark brown pumpernickel noodles. Not surprising since I usually order the whole wheat noodles at Halu. They’re somewhat brittle compared to the regular ramen noodles here, and they do taste like pumpernickel.
The soft-centered egg was cooked to runny perfection though not as deliciously seasoned as Orenchi’s.
Portions are big here. Mom finished less than half her bowl. I took my remaining soup stock home where it gelled in the fridge overnight. Kansui Ramen enters the ranking at #16.
1185 Lincoln Ave
San Jose, CA 95125
Lunch only, Tuesday-Saturday
PERSONAL RAMEN RANKING
1. Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave Ste M, San Jose
2. Tsujita, 2057 Sawtelle Blvd, Los Angeles
3. Tatsunoya at Mitsuwa Kyushu and Okinawan festival, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
4. Himawari, 202 2nd Ave, San Mateo
5. Orenchi Ramen, 3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
6. Santouka, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
7. Maru Ichi, 368 Castro St, Mountain View
8. Izakaya Mai, 212 2nd Avenue, San Mateo
9. Shin Shin Men Men, 21265 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino
10. Gaku Japanese Charcoal Grill, 5152 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
11. Yonsei Ramen Shop @ Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
12. Ajisen Noodle, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont
13. Maru Ichi, 530 Barber Lane, Milpitas
14. Ramen Dojo, 805 South B St, San Mateo
15. Shalala, 698 W Dana St, Mountain View
16. Kansui Ramen, 1185 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
17. Tanto, 1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale
18. Izakaya Restaurant, 1335 N 1st St, San Jose
19. Alexander’s Steakhouse Lounge, 10330 N Wolfe Rd, Cupertino (closed)
20. Santa, 1944 South El Camino Real, San Mateo
21. Do-Henkotsu House of Tokushima Ramen, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose (closed)
22. Ramen Tenma, 487 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
23. Hapa Ramen, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco
24. Ryowa, 859 Villa St, Mountain View
25. Orson Restaurant Bar + Lounge, 508 4th St, San Francisco (closed)
26. Izakaya Sozai, 1500 Irving St, San Francisco
27. Sumiya, 2634 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
28. Tamashii Ramen House, 3288 Pierce St, Richmond
29. Ramen Yamadaya, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco
30. Gen Ramen, 47890 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont (closed)
31. Hana Japanese Restaurant, 101 Golf Course Dr, Rohnert Park
32. Ken Ken Ramen, pop-up at The Corner, San Francisco (closed, moved)
33. Kyora Japanese Restaurant, 1217 Wildwood Ave, Sunnyvale (closed)
34. Sobo, 988 Franklin St, Oakland
35. Kotetsu Ramen, 2089 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
36. BY Grill, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
37. Norikonoko, 2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
38. Dohatsuten, 799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto
39. Casino Bar and Grill, Bodega
40. Hana, 4320 Moorpark, San Jose
41. Ozumo, 2251 Broadway, Oakland
42. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen, 5120 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
43. Muracci’s, 244 State St, Los Altos
44. Katanaya, 430 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
45. Tadamasa, 34672 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
46. Noodle Me, America’s Cup Village concession, San Francisco
47. Masa's Sushi, 400 San Antonio Road, Mountain View
48. Ippuku, 2130 Center St, Berkeley
49. Nombe, 2491 Mission St, San Francisco
50. Gochi, 19980 Homestead Rd, Cupertino
51. Shimo Modern Steakhouse, 241 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg (closed)
52. Oyaji, 3123 Clement St, San Francisco
53. Ramen Misoya, 3541 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara
54. Chubby Noodle, 570 Green St, San Francisco
55. Ame Restaurant, 689 Mission St, San Francisco
56. Yu-Raku, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo
57. Namu, 439 Balboa St, San Francisco (moved)
58. Halu Restaurant, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco
59. Sanmi, 3226 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
60. Hatcho, 1271 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara
61. Kahoo, 4330 Moorpark Ave, San Jose
62. Tomoe, 810 3rd St, San Rafael (closed)
63. Ringer Hut, 1072 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
64. Noodle Theory, 3242 Scott St, San Francisco (closed)
65. Ramen Seas, 173 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
66. Watami Shabu Shabu and Ramen, 5344 Geary Blvd, San Francisco (closed)
67. Where’s Buta by Elgin Espiritu and June Lee, Eat Real Festival, Oakland
68. Kumako, 211 E. Jackson Street, San Jose
69. Japanese Restaurant Hoshi, 246 Saratoga Avenue, Santa Clara
70. Ramen Club, 723 California Dr, Burlingame
71. Saiwaii Ramen, 2240 Irving St, San Francisco
72. Ryowa, 2068 University Ave, Berkeley (after ownership change)
73. King Won Ton, 1936 Irving St, San Francisco
74. Tazaki Sushi, 3420 Judah St, San Francisco
75. Ramen Rama, 19774 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino (closed)
76. Ogi-San Ramen, 10789 Blaney Ave, Cupertino (closed)
77. Kaimuki Grill, 104 S El Camino Real, San Mateo (closed)
78. Tanto, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose (now Dan Izakaya)
79. Okazu Ya SF (Noriega), 2445 Noriega St, San Francisco
80. King's Garden Ramen, 39055 Cedar Blvd, Newark (closed)
81. Sushi Bistro, 445 Balboa St, San Francisco (closed, moved)
82. Genki Ramen, 3944 Geary Blvd, San Francisco
83. Mitsuwa Hokkaido festival booth, 675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
84. Dan Izakaya, 1306 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
85. Lakuni, 325 E 4th Ave, San Mateo
86. 100% Healthy Desserts, 1155 Taraval St., San Francisco
87. Mifune, 1737 Post St, San Francisco
88. H2A Noodle, 42318 Fremont Blvd., Fremont (closed)
89. Iroha, 1728 Buchanan St, San Francisco (closed)
90. Chotto, 3317 Steiner St, San Francisco
91. Miraku Noodles, 2131 N Broadway, Walnut Creek
92. Manpuku, 2977 College Ave, Berkeley
93. Tanpopo, 1740 Buchanan Street, San Francisco
94. Sushi Yoshi, 39261 Cedar Blvd, Newark
95. La Shang Niang Ramen (OEC), 42 Dixon Rd, Milpitas (closed)
96. Oidon, 71 E. 4th Avenue, San Mateo
97. Taraval Okazu Ya, 1735 Taraval St., San Francisco
98. Suzu Noodle House, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco
99. Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro St, Mountain View
100. Fresh Taste, 2107 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
101. Asuka Ramen, 883 Bush St, San Francisco (closed)
102. Sapporo-ya, 1581 Webster St, San Francisco
103. Tokyo Ramen, 678 Barber Lane, Milpitas (closed)
104. Ramen Tomo, 4390 Telegraph Ave, Oakland
105. Kamakura, 2549 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda
106. Mama-san!, 312 8th Ave, San Francisco (closed)
107. Katana-ya Ramen, 10546 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito
108. Hotei, 1290 9th Ave, San Francisco
109. Bear's Ramen House, 2521 Durant, Berkeley
Those pumpernickel noodles look fantastic! #16 is very impressive given its location outside of the ramen-ya hot zones. I really hope they offer a dinner service soon.
This is also the first time I've noticed how highly you rank Ajisen, which is nice, because I thought I was the only one crazy enough to go to Warm Springs for ramen of all things...
Both noodles were great, a big reason for the ranking. I hope the pumpernickel ones make another appearance on the menu. Appearance aside, the flavors really hit it here. My brother and frequent ramen-eating partner has often said that the last spoonful of soup stock is the tastiest because all the ingredients have infused their flavor by the time you get to the bottom. This place is trying to achieve that for the first bite.
My visit to Ajisen in Fremont was some time ago and I've not been back. I bumped it up quite a bit from an earlier visit. Maybe it was a one-off of better than usual quality for the place. At the time, the Fremont location was supposed to be the best of the chain in California. I've heard that quality varies among branches.
re: mutton biryani
The list is based on the best bowl I've had at each of those places and is not a judgement on the overall establishment. At Halu, the best bowls are the specials offered a few times a year, e.g., lobster ramen. It no longer has a website, so one needs to call to find out what's the special on offer. Typically 20 portions for lunch and 20 portions for dinner are available.
Many have said that my ranking for Himawari is too high. It has been a couple years since my last visit and my favorite has been the clam ramen with an extra helping of butter. So, keep that in mind.
Now I need you to post about the biryani you've tried locally, both good and bad, ok?
re: Melanie Wong
Very informative Melanie; you are a boon to this board.
Your last question cracks me up. Sadly I am yet to have decent biryani anywhere I have lived in the US (DC, Boston, and now SF). I am convinced that Indian/Pakistani food in the US is rather mediocre. If the gems exist, they are probably difficult to find.